LONDON (Reuters) - Britain is confident it can get its 2.1 billion euro ($2.6 billion) bill from the European Union reduced, finance minister George Osborne said.
European finance ministers are due to discuss the bill, which Britain has called “unacceptable,” at a meeting in Brussels next week.
“I am confident that we can get this changed, but it is the beginning of the conversation,” Osborne told ITV News at a summit in Berlin on Wednesday where he was expected to raise the issue with his German counterpart.
“A week ago we were just expected to pay up. People now understand there is a proper conversation to be had.”
Prime Minister David Cameron said earlier this week Britain would not pay “anything like” the amount being asked by a Dec. 1 deadline, accusing the EU executive of ambushing him with an unacceptable demand.
Cameron, who has promised a referendum on Britain’s EU membership in 2017 if he is re-elected next year, is under pressure from the rising popularity of the anti-EU UK Independence Party to take a harder line on Europe.
While he favors staying in a reformed EU, Cameron has said the bill made it harder to make the case to keep Britain in.
Britain was hit with the higher bill because its economy has rebounded, something shown by data its own Office for National Statistics provided. Other EU states got painful bills too, and in the past Britain has benefited from such EU budget redistributions.
Osborne said he had allies for his cause, including the Dutch and the Italians, who were also surprised by the way the bill was presented.
Reporting by Kylie MacLellan and William James; Editing by Larry King